HomeNewsCash Settlement Concludes Tesla's Five-Year Legal Dispute Over 2018 Autopilot Death

Cash Settlement Concludes Tesla’s Five-Year Legal Dispute Over 2018 Autopilot Death

The lawsuit that got Tesla on edge and continuously on defense finally came to an end. The Apple engineer Walter Huang who lost his life in a tragic Tesla accident was playing on his phone when he lost his life.

According to court documents, Tesla settled the lawsuit in cash with the family. This incident sparked again the ongoing debate about technology’s role in our lives, particularly in terms of safety.

Why would Tesla settle after going on for five years? Here’s all we know.

Tesla Legal Dispute 2018 Autopilot Death

Tesla Settles Apple Engineer Death Lawsuit With Cash

In 2019, Huang’s family sued Tesla and the state of California. They claimed that the Tesla Model X didn’t have a good crash avoidance system or a working automatic emergency braking system. These features, which were available in many other cars at the time, could have prevented the crash.

Background of the Lawsuit

There were reports of similar incidents happening with Huang before the day he died. The family said Tesla’s actions led to Huang’s death and that the car was unsafe to use as intended.

According to the report, Tesla has settled a lawsuit over the car crash that killed an Apple engineer in 2018. The crash happened near San Francisco on Highway 101 when the engineer’s Tesla crashed into a highway gore. The settlement was made just before the trial was supposed to start, ending a five-year legal battle.

However, the terms of the settlement were not made public.

Tesla Model X Autopilot Crash

Just last month we covered the news of how the trial that was supposed to take place now after the fresh evidence. Lawyers of the family pointed out in an email that proved Tesla knew that Autopilot wasn’t paying attention to the software glitch.

The trial which was supposed to start last month is a big deal for Tesla. It is a big challenge because it looks like Tesla’s Autopilot system is only safe if drivers are really paying attention unlike how Tesla advertises its autopilot.

Some people argue that Tesla should make its system safer if they are aware drivers misuse the Autopilot. But others think Tesla might say the driver who died, Huang, didn’t use Autopilot correctly on purpose.

Analysis of Tesla’s Autopilot System

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has looked into nearly 956 crashes involving Autopilot and is investigating over 40 Tesla accidents resulting in 23 deaths. In December, Tesla recalled over 2 million vehicles with Autopilot for more driver alerts via a remote software update.

Huang’s case is quite the popular one in a series of trials over Autopilot, with Tesla winning previous cases. Tesla won them by arguing drivers weren’t attentive enough.

Legal and Ethical Implications

The majority of people are torn over the settlement as many are calling the move a wrongdoing on Tesla’s part. Autopilot is far from perfect but technology takes time and Tesla is just getting started with self-driving tech.

A Reddit user quite aptly sums up the challenge with Autopilot: it’s both a technical puzzle and a liability issue.

He explains that while autonomous cars could save lives compared to human drivers, it’s tricky because we’re used to blaming humans for accidents, not machines or companies. So, even if robot cars could prevent accidents, figuring out who’s at fault if something goes wrong isn’t straightforward.

“A robot car will never get drunk, never get road rage, never fall asleep at the wheel. It seems reasonable to expect they will be safer than human drivers, but when a car kills somebody, the closest human to blame is the car manufacturer.”

byu/BadBoyMikeBarnes from discussion

While Tesla tells drivers to stay focused on the road, Ashok Elluswamy, a Tesla Autopilot engineer explains that drivers have found ways to trick the system. Some even buy Tesla counterweights online, like on Alibaba, and put them on the steering wheel. This makes the car think the driver’s hands are there, even if they’re not paying attention.

What To Expect In The Future?

So, the Autopilot software or Tesla is indeed responsible for averting accidents where drivers are not paying attention. However, the lawsuits are either won by Tesla or new evidence and arguments never see the day of light as they come to a settlement.

But the recent settlement by Tesla could set an example for other lawsuits linked to Autopilot. Tesla is facing hundreds of lawsuits over crashes possibly linked to Autopilot, potentially leading to hefty payouts.

Bryant Walker Smith, an expert in self-driving car law from the University of South Carolina, said, “It is striking to me that Tesla decided to go this far publicly and then settle” He thinks this move is a signal that Tesla might be willing to settle rather than fight.

However, this still shouldn’t let Tesla ignore working on its self-driving system. Tesla should change the name Autopilot or self-drive to only driver assistance if it fails to understand such conditions leading to accidents.


Tesla is always under scrutiny because of the production hiccups and the way its Autopilot behaved in the past. People argue that humans can better act in critical scenarios making wiser decisions or at least trying.

The settlement might influence future lawsuits, but Tesla must continuously improve its self-driving tech to prevent such accidents and keep everyone safe on the road. What do you think about the settlement?

Purnima Rathi
Purnima Rathi
Purnima has a strong love for EVs. Whether it's classic cars or modern performance vehicles, she likes to write about anything with four wheels, especially if there's a cool story behind it.


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